When I’m working at home, it + a few other, similar channels are the “background music” to my daily office chores and it makes up perhaps 75% of my overall TV viewing. Thus, while I don’t know who won last year’s American Idol, thanks to History, I can probably tell you more than you wanted to know about key ingredients in modern ag economics. Oh yes, I’m a hoot at parties.
So, imagine the surprise when they aired a 2 hour documentary titled Crude this past Sunday and interviewed a young-ish desi woman by the name of Sonia Shah for her commentary. And, to make my budding jealously worse, she wasn’t merely interviewed but actually wrote a book chunks of the program were based on…
If there’s anyone who can air a program about the history of a lowly Carbon atom and make it interesting, the History Channel is the place. Crude eloquently traces the history and chemistry of Crude Oil extraction and went down a series of interesting side roads. Shah’s journal describes her involvement in the movie –
A few years ago, a documentary fillmmaker (sic) from the ABC in Sydney (that’s the Australian public television network) spent a day with me in Boston, talking about oil politics. His film, which he dubbed “Crude” (after kindly discussing it with me), came out in Australia a few years ago, and won a slew of awards. It has some amazing footage in it, the least of which are some clips from that day in Boston with me. (A film crew followed me around at the grocery store while I pretended to shop. Slightly embarassing.)
This Sunday, the film airs on the History Channel here in the US….
p>A hefty amount of airtime traces the biogenic origins of Oil along with modern processes into which oil is refined and incorporated into a variety of shapes and forms. Thankfully, the show avoids too much geopolitical sermonizing and instead focuses on consumer impact and science. Shah gets an opportunity to deliver a money quote from her book -
“Newborn babies,” observes author Sonia Shah, “slide from their mothers into petro-plastic-gloved hands, are swaddled in petro-polyester blankets, and are hurried off to be warmed by oil-burning heaters.” The modern world is drenched in oil…
p>It’s unlikely that Shah & I would see eye to eye on how to respond to Global Warming (I’m a bit more Bjorn Lomborg / Copenhagen; I’m more likely to frame issues in terms of “unequal production” rather than “unequal consumption” and so on). BUT, I have to give her major props for publishing this and several other apparently well received works.
And what did the History Channel have to say about Sonia’s desi-ness? Nothing whatsoever. Just the way it should be. Still, Sonia’s biography tells a childhood tale that should be familar to many SM readers and perhaps planted a seed for her future –
As an American-born child, sent to stay with relatives in India every summer, all of this was shocking, and fascinating. Back at home, wads of gossamer-thin, perfumed paper tissue, imprinted with lacy designs, were used to cushion each tiny smear of snot as it swirled down the commode’s shiny porcelain. Here, people cleared their nasal passages directly into a stinking gutter. All of this-the poverty, the disease, the disparity-must be related, I thought. For a seven-year-old, every mysterious thing in the world is secretly connected. Growing up meant figuring out how.
Unfortunately, Crude has come and gone and I didn’t get the advance notice to post a heads up. Luckily, however, the History channel generally lives up to its name and re-airs programming pretty regularly. So, keep your eyes peeled and if you or I see it again, post a shout-out for others.